Soulful pop singer/songwriter Eagle-Eye Cherry has a sneaking suspicion that his late father, jazz great Don Cherry, had ulterior motives for getting his son interested in music.
And while the push got him interested in music in the first place and certainly helped inspire his recently released debut album, Desireless, it did not work out as his father had expected.
"My dad was the kind of person who could not go a day without touching an instrument," Eagle-Eye recalled recently, on the eve of his first American tour. "He put me on a drum stool as soon as he could, when I was, like, 2 years old, and I think he was thinking ahead to the idea of having a drummer he wouldn't have to pay that much."
Eagle-Eye, 27, said he quickly learned that the drums were not his bag the next year. Missing a cymbal, he knocked his front teeth out and fell flat on his face.
It turned out to be a fortuitous accident for the singer, who explained that his name derives from his one-eyed wink at birth. Eagle-Eye eventually found his musical direction.
The dozen songs on his confessional debut album offer a moody mix of acoustic rock and soul. They range from the smoldering hit single,
Ironically, given the strength of Eagle-Eye's impressionistic songwriting style and his musical pedigree, the singer said he almost walked away from the music world in favor of a shot at acting.
Raised in the Swedish countryside along with his older sister, hip-hop soul singer Neneh Cherry, Eagle-Eye said he spent a nomadic life with his father before relocating to New York when he was 13. "I was into being the center of attention," Eagle-Eye said, adding that he jumped at any chance to try out for plays in school. That eagerness landed him at the New York performing-arts school that was the basis of the film and television show "Fame."
After a short stint in a King Crimson-inspired progressive-rock band called Third Rail, Eagle-Eye said he turned his back on music and began taking calls for small parts in television pilots and episodic shows such as the ill-fated series "South Beach." But, by that point, Eagle-Eye had begun buying some musical equipment, which, despite his early experience, included a drum kit.
"As a drummer, though," Eagle-Eye said, "I was frustrated at the melodies I was hearing in my head."
In search of a more pastoral life, Eagle-Eye left New York for Stockholm, Sweden, several years ago with only the money he'd earned from his acting gigs, he said, and the melodies he couldn't shake.
"One of the first apartments I rented had this acoustic guitar sitting in it," Eagle-Eye said, "which I never had as a kid, and I immediately sat down with that and started playing. It was the key to the door that made me see, 'Ah, that's it, this is what I wanted to be doing.' " Eagle-Eye soon began amassing the songs that would make up his debut.
The album closes with the meandering, supple blues of the title track, a song penned by the singer's late father, who died in 1995. The tribute to the late jazz trumpeter and bandleader has a loping, jazzy melody that Eagle-Eye said he remembered from his childhood, when the song was first released on his father's 1973 album Relativity Suite.
"I think I might have put one of his songs on the album even if he hadn't passed," Eagle-Eye said. "It's a beautiful song that has a sad melody that I really love."
Not long after this and other songs were first recorded by Eagle-Eye and some Stockholm musicians, a tape fell into the hands of Work Records A&R (artists and repertoire) man David Field, who said he played the tape for several weeks before he even realized that Eagle-Eye Cherry was the name of a person, not a group.
"I didn't know at all who he was until I'd been living with it for weeks," Field said. "Eagle-Eye writes on this simplistic level where, whether you've experienced what he's writing about or not -- like in 'Shooting Up in Vain,' which has a very specific topic -- there's an emotional communication that allows you to assimilate that experience and relate to it on your own. Even if it may have been miles away from your experience."
Lyrically, the album is full of what Eagle-Eye said were "New York stories" about characters that are either lost or in search of some elusive happiness.
"I wanted it to be simple," Eagle-Eye said. "Since this is my first record, I thought I'd focus on the lyrics and the melody and paint a musical picture around that, which is why it's fairly acoustic and organic."